Enriching Life Through Innovative Ideas SM



Today we introduce you to the cousin of the infamous patent troll, the copyright troll. Similar to the patent troll, copyright trolls are people or organizations that contract with multiple copyright holders in order to obtain the right to litigate on their behalf. These “trolls” then track down copyright infringers, or people who they suspect will violate their copyrighted material, and send out pre-litigation settlement letters in bulk. Copyright trolls make their money by threatening to sue for the maximum amount under the law, but ultimately offering a settlement deal for much less, usually ranging from $1,500.00 to $2,500.00. This way, recipients often opt to pay the fee and move on to avoid the high cost of litigation.

Why are they allowed to get away with this? For starters, the U.S. Constitution and the Copyright Act of 1976 allows a copyright holder to sue for infringement claims against anyone who violates their exclusive rights. 17 U.S.C. 501. The Copyright Act also gives copyright holders a choice to collect either actual damages or statutory damages should they prevail. 17 U.S.C. 501.

This has resulted in a favorable business opportunity for enterprising groups who view “trolling” as a chance to make a quick buck without ever having the intention of actually pursuing litigation. For example, Righthaven LLC was a company created just for this purpose. Righthaven contracted with individual copyright holders who lacked the resources to fully exploit their legal rights. Righthaven then proceeded to utilize their advanced resources that many original copyright holders lacked. Righthaven’s resources allowed them to easily target large groups of alleged copyright infringers. Instead of actually seeking to prevent copyright infringement by sending cease-and-desist letters to alleged infringers, Righthaven would immediately send out settlement letters in order to cash in on the likelihood of the recipient wanting to pay rather than risk a lawsuit and legal fees.

This scheme is referred to as a “litigate-prior to notice” tactic and it is now useless. The law now makes it clear that copyright trolls like Righthaven who only hold litigation rights cannot file infringement suits as a copyright holder per the Copyright Act. See Righthaven v. Democratic Underground, No. 11-16751 (9th Cir., May 9, 2013). While the copyright holder can sue anyone who violates his or her EXCLUSIVE rights, the court ruled that copyright trolls who have only obtained litigation rights but not exclusive rights do not meet the Copyright Act’s requirements to file an infringement suit.
As a result, copyright trolls have since begun to acquire exclusive rights to their holdings; however, this too may backfire on them. As seen in AF Holdings v. Does, copyright trolls who rely on “deceptive techniques” are liable under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) statute. AF Holdings v. Does et al., Case No. 1:12-cv-00048 (D.C. Cir., May 27, 2014). Effectively, copyright trolls may face an uphill battle in trying to restore their original framework, even with exclusive rights.

FindLaw Network

What Our Clients Say

Starting a new business can be a bit scary. Aside from worries of failure, there’s also the hassle of making sure all legal paperwork are properly filed. I reached out to Mr. Wang (Tommy) because of his excellent reviews and reputation and I am so glad I did. He was thorough and meticulous in answering all of my concerns and took time to find out special laws and policies regarding the kind of business I am starting. I could focus on the daily practical side of starting my new office without worry because I felt Tommy was reliable and took my case seriously. My business is opened and it’s all been a smooth start because of Tommy’s help. I have plans to start another business venture in the next few years and I already know I’ll be coming back to Wang IP Law.

The Shindig W.

I came to Tommy for help reviewing a licensing agreement I had secured with a well-known manufacturer. Tommy made sure I understood all the details in the contract and he negotiated with the company to improve my side of the deal. I mentioned to Tommy at my first consultation that we were looking to expand throughout the US and were investing a lot of money to make a big entrance into the market. I did not think I would have my store open so soon but Tommy also has connections with the local area and realtors to help me secure the location for my first store in the Los Angeles area. Tommy works a lot with the local businesses and he understands how to transition from the Asian market to US market. Within 8 months my store was open for business and fully operating. I must recommend Tommy to any business owners looking for help with contracts and improving their side of the deal. Tommy has the knowledge and experience to make sure there is a smooth process to open for business here, and make sure that your company is set up for success.


I think Tommy and his team by far considered the best people to work with in my 16 business years. Beside quick responses to all my inquiries, they also done things right and providing very professional solutions. I’m highly recommending Tommy and his firm to all business owners.

Calvin C.

I have been working on my Utility Patent for almost 4 years. I have hired and fired two very reputable IP firms because with all their expertise and reputation for being some of the top firms in IP Law, I felt a lack of connection and care in my product, time and financial investment. Then I found Tommy and his team. Tommy does not waste time. He and his team are professional and extremely thorough. After 4 years, I finally found a legal team that I felt spent the time to really understand the components of my utility patent. Tommy also very mindful of cost and how and where my money would be better spent. I really feel I am in great hands with Tommy and his team. They have been patient with my revisions. And most importantly, they made me feel that they fully understood the importance this patent is to me. It has been a great and comforting pleasure working with Tommy.


Read All